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November 30, 2005

Excessive

Goodness - thanks for the nice comments about the socks! It really is a fun, tidy pattern, sensibly and clearly written (would you expect anything less from The Great Grumperina?) but plenty interesting to knit. Just one (very mild) warning about the pattern - the zigzag stitch does indeed make for a hugging, supportive fit, but it comes at the expense of lateral stretch in the fabric. DON'T worry too much about mods to make them smaller, unless you have very wee dainty little fairy feet. I wear a size 6 shoe, and found that I couldn't get the cuff over my ankle on the first go-round, when I'd blindly tried doing the whole thing on size 0s.

Everything yesterday was excessive. In eighteen waking hours, I:

  • drank enough coffee to float the Spanish Armada;
  • sent out more rock-solid queries and proposal packages than I normally do in a week;
  • got excited about some more ideas I'll solidify later
  • ate Ghandi's weight in butter chicken and tamarind pickle;
  • spent something roughly equivalent to the GNP of a small country on yarn;
  • talked until my tongue ached;
  • single-handedly brought about the extinction of several species of fish in a sashimi-related natural disaster (also known as "dinner");
  • poured cup after cup of sake for my dad, and accepted those proffered in return, until we were both pleasantly maudlin and weepy;
  • knitted and knitted and knitted and knitted.

I mean, if you're going to do anything, you might as well do it thoroughly, right?

The lovely-in-real-life Laura and I made the most of an otherwise grey day with some good food and some good yarn-ing. We swung by Knit 'N Stitch in Bethesda, where I picked up some felting-destined Cascade 220 in a pretty heathered rust color:

and then went on to Yarns International, just down the street. I LOVE this shop - All About Yarn is so close it's made me lazy to head anywhere else, but I'd forgotten how beautiful this shop is, full of thoughtfully selected fibers and an almost reverent regard for traditional knitting. They carry an enormous assortment of J&S Shetland jumperweight (I'd say almost half the line), but I knew what I was looking for:

Their own brand of 2-ply jumperweight in natural fleece colors, spun and put up for them by J&S themselves (in Shetland, to boot!). I bought one skein of each of the nine colors, plus a dark wine dyed J&S color I just couldn't resist, in an effort to further my FI education. Here they are, grouped into the basic light-on-dark shadings I'll start with:

That wine red will look dandy, I think, as a single line of pop in the horizontal centerline of the pattern bands. Does it make me a complete loser if I confess that I can't wait to start snipping yarn and swatching and arranging and charting for Armwarmers v2.0 portion of The Fair Isle Project?

We also had a lovely conversation with two extremely knowledgable, very proficient ladies in the shop about Fair Isle method and design and history (the older lady told a funny story about Norman Kennedy whipping off his homemade sweater during the middle of a concert to show her his construction method - "Och, lass, I haven't finished the ends yet, and it's been near twenty years!"). There was some general bemoaning over the Starmore debacle, some really good information exchanged about steeking, and some wonderful advice about good theory books. With their encouragement, I bought this,

which has an amazing discussion of color, and am on the lookout for copies of some other books they recommend. Traditional Fair Isle Knitting, by Sheila McGregor, is supposed to be a really invaluable resource for straight charts and thoughts on line and shape, and of course there was some general swooning over the Starmore book.

Oh, right, and I did a little work on the bag:

That is, I finished all the knitting for it and sewed it up about half way. I changed my side treatment, to create sharply sloping sides that almost meet at the top,

which I think will look a lot more finished and a bit shapelier than the box-with-handles in the pattern instructions. I'm thinking the Kate Spade Bexley Maddox bag

is a spiritual sister to my little project - with that in mind, I'm going to be very thorough with construction for this. No floppy, frowzy felt tote for me - there will be interfacing, there will be turning out through lining, there will be buckles and feet and interior pockets.

But first, there must be felting. I think I just felt a little shiver run down my spine.

November 29, 2005

Jaywalker Socks

This is a really fun pattern - Grumperina did a great job!

Pattern: Jaywalker Socks, by Grumperina for Magknits September 2005
Yarn: Lana Grossa Meilenweit Fun & Stripes, in color 602 (cream/grey/charcoal/black, discontinued)
Yardage: Approximately 300 yards
Yarn Source: All About Yarn
Needles: 2.25mm (US1) for sock leg and foot; 2.0mm (US0) for ribbing, heel, and toe decreases, Susan Bates Silvalume Sock Set (metal DPNs)
Gauge: 31st/4" over pattern
Modifications: Knit portions with US0 needle for better fit.

See all entries on this project

November 28, 2005

Lunch

Some days it's the best thing you've got going.

November 26, 2005

Off-topic

This properly belongs on my other site, but -

Good, clean, simple dinner on Thursday, of

  • a gobbler, roasted in nothing but its own salted, peppered, sage-stuffed skin and plenty of butter;
  • a simple cranberry sauce of sugar, water and berries simmered and irregularly crushed with the back of a wooden spoon - enough to gel upon cooling, but still studded with whole berries here and there;
  • the plainest, best bread stuffing imaginable - a couple of day-old bâtards, relieved of crust and crumbled, tossed with onions and celery wilted in an an absolutely irresponsible mount of butter. Finely chopped sage, salt, pepper, a couple ladlefuls of all-day turkey stock. Cooked within the bird and without (supplemented by browned and minced giblets);
  • trimmed and halved Brussels sprouts, roasted with olive oil in a hot oven until loose leaves frizzled into crispy little wisps and the green heads were ringed with caramel sear round the edges. Dressed up with a bit of peppered slab bacon.
  • asparagus (out of season, but suprisingly decent) briefly steamed standing up in an inch of water, finished with grated Parmigiano and butter under the broiler;
  • mashed Yukon Golds (anyone who sticks with russets for mashed is a sucker, and I will defend that opinion to the death. Go ahead. Try me.)
  • giblet gravy. I burned the first roux and had to start over just as people started swarming through the door and demanding booze (the question of whether or not the gracious hostess swore like a pirate's parrot and flung the ruined pan into the sink with a fearful crash in front of a houseful of guests will have to remain unanswered, but I DID mutter thanks that I'd started with butter and not directly in the pan with my carefully monitered and cultivated drippings. Drippings and stock as aforesaid in the second batch, and all was well);
  • thrice-risen dinner rolls (visible crumbled under the fork handle). I LOVE King Arthur unbleached all-purpose. Light, white, feeds the yeast just right, every freaking time.
  • medallions of sweet potato parboiled and finished in the oven with whiskey, butter, brown sugar and pecans. No marshmallow concoction for me (though I think I could eat a whole dish of it. If no one were watching);
  • the freshest, easiest, most crowd-pleasing green bean recipe I know - blanch trimmed beans until bright green, shock in ice water, and reheat with a dab of whole-grain dijon and oil or butter until the seeds start to pop. Takes five minutes flat for a perfectly balanced little side, the grassiness cut by acidity and natural sugar tempered with spice.
  • not pictured: stuffed Vidalias; satsuma-juice-glazed carrots; creamed corn; my famous apple and not-so-famous pumpkin pies and the accompanying whipped cream; my sore right (whipping) arm; various and sundry (empty) bottles of wine and beer and spirits; inky coffee as only my dad makes it; convival people; smiling, ingratiating kids and sulky, tantrum-throwing ones; good cheer; bad puns and funny stories; gratefulness for the bounty that imbues our lives, in ways big and small.

November 25, 2005

Processed

Stephanie said:

I would love if you wrote about how you learned to knit.

'Appy to oblige, m'dear. My dad's mom taught me to knit on one of her trips to the east coast when I was very very small - about four or five. I don't think she taught me anything other than the knit stitch, but never mind that - I made garter stitch doll blanket after doll blankent.

So, then, I've been knitting for at least fifteen years or so, but my level of interest/obsession with it has waxed and waned relative to whatever other craft thing I was addicted to at the moment. Knitting got pitched for origami for a few years, then for seed bead weaving, then for millefiori beads with Fimo and Sculpey...now that I think about it, my long-suffering Mom and Dad should have shining stars on the Encouraging And Nurturing Parent Walk Of Fame.

When I moved out five or six years ago, I got really into knitting. I think it was mostly a function of having disposable income of my own - if I blew half a paycheck on yarn, the ensuing ramen comsumption could be blamed on no one but myself. I think this was right before knitting became hugely trendy - Rowan had JUST changed their magazine from a mostly-black-and-white to a full-color job - and there wasn't nearly as much hip parephenalia around (if cute, heavily-styled books like Weekend Knitting or Loop-d-Loop existed in quantity, I certainly didn't know about it). I basically re-taught myself to knit with that good old tome Vogue Knitting, spent a lot of money on Rowan and Jaeger yarns (heh - even today I look askance at Debbie Bliss yarns as an experimental "vanity project"), and generally just hoped I was doing things correctly. I didn't know anyone else who knit, and thus didn't have anyone to tell me when I was making mistakes - I did a lot of squinting and comparing with drawings and photographs.

I guess I'm still a follower, since it's only in the last couple years that I've become any kind of thoughtful knitter. I see how designers like Teva Durham and Hanne Falkenberg redefine the way we use knitted fabric - and try to see possibilities in that way. The current explosion of pattern and fiber sources on- and off-line - it gives me ideas for my own projects beyond my comfort level and an appreciation for materials produced with care. Finally, the blog medium has given me a close-up on some knitters whose scrupulous technique leaves me amazed - they make me want to be a cleaner, more careful, better knitter.
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...Maybe one with even the tiniest glimmer of hope that I'll ever learn self-control. I must have been in a deviant, licentious mood after the frenzied dinner last night:

November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone, in the US and out, has a happy, healthy Thursday.

November 23, 2005

Experimental

I really thought the whole armwarmer thing was silly and pointless, until I realized how cold my hands get when I'm hunched over the keyboard. Gloves would be entirely too cumbersome; wristlets are ridiculous-looking; what I need is something that fits my arm and wrist and hand, with a thumb gusset, that covers the fingers to the first knuckle. Yeah, that would be great! How come no one's thought of this before?

Wait a minute.

So anyway, here's some (further) proof that I am totally barking mad:

I had a couple uninterrupted knitting hours last night (a treat for myself after braving the grocery store during rush hour). I could have worked on the felted bag. Or my dad's gansey. Or gotten cracking on some of the umpteen felted slippers I have to make.

No, I sat down and started A NEW PROJECT.

Because life is nothing without giant, awkward rationalizations, I'm telling myself that this is a learning project, an exercise in combining colors and shapes. It'll take the place of my Fair Isle Vest as The Colorwork Project since instant-gratification knits are more conducive to experimentation than ones that take forever, but the process will be fairly long-term, relegated to spare moments here and there - I don't expect to have a FO I'm satisfied with before Christmas.

The sample you see here is v.1.0 - a far cry from the "sophisticated Fair Isle" I was trying to achieve. My main problem with it is color-related - I just merrily combined colors I thought were pretty together, with no mind to hue intensities, making the finished pattern look sort of incoherent. This done totally in shades of blue and grey, or in natural fleece colors a la Ron Schweitzer's spectacular designs for Shetland 2000, might be a lot more adult.

The other big issue concerns the pattern itself - I didn't know whether I wanted something Norwegian or Scottish in flavor. Obviously I went with the former, but I am a little disappointed with the size of each motif's footprint on such a small piece. An arrangement of some narrow, traditional Scottish FI borders might be better suited.

Technical problems:

1) I should have striped the gusset in vertical columns to hide the end-of-round jog and give strength to the fabric. Easily fixed.

2) The star pattern I made up kind of sucked - there needs to be some sort of accent between each star to anchor the thread.

3) The brown borders make no sense here. All they do is visually slice.

4) Not marked, but there really needs to be some gentle shaping at the bottom of the cuff to prevent the motif from twisting. Also easily fixed.

All in all, this turned out...okay for something done on a whim, with no swatch and no tape measure. I'm going to keep refining the pattern and the design itself, until I have something I'm happy with - I think it might be kind of fun.

Gah.

November 22, 2005

Lesser nerds, stay away!

Thanks for all the sweet comments about the smoke ring and the shawl, guys. They were both fun knits that receive two thumbs up from the Eunny Jang School of Knitting.

Take it with a grain of salt, though, since, the EJSoK isn't necessarily the most conscientious institution out there. Take, for example, our most beloved maxim:

An ounce of detergent

covers a multitude of sins

Hopefully, anyway.

The construction for this bag is going to be an interesting little puzzle. At All About Yarn the other day, I saw a display of patterns and kits by Noni Bellows, a local designer who makes fresh, seriously good-looking bags and totes with felt. Some of the stuff is fairly standard - cylinder bag with eyelash trim, anyone? - but other items are absolute knockouts, not so much because they're terribly original, but because of a spectacular sense of color and shape. There's very little messy, sloppy frowsiness in her designs (present in almost every felted bag I've ever seen); instead, they walk the narrow tightrope between clean and soft; fresh and romantic. And besides, they're just so pretty - what dark heart beats in he who could find nothing to love in a pistachio-and-dark-brown striped baguette adorned with giant pale pink flowers?

In examining the sample bag, it looked like it had been knit in pieces, felted, cut to size, and then seamed together and reinforced with plastic needlepoint canvas between outer layer and facing. I'd rather felt it already seamed, but I do want to adopt some of the clever shaping ideas I saw with regard to pleats and handle attachment. I'm thinking that instead of doing this incredibly awkward side pleat:

(which even looks awful in the modeled bag, so you know I could never make it work:

)

I'll do one deep pleat, perhaps by making crease lines with columns of purl stitches. I'm also dead-set against using i-cord for handles, so I'm thinking I'll attach deep brown leather straps around the reinforcing dowels along the sides - maybe sewn into place, or maybe buckled to themselves.

Does anyone have ideas for lining fabric? Right now, I'm leaning towards a rich pink solid, but we are nothing if not flexible here at the EJSoK.

November 21, 2005

Flared Lace Smoke Ring

Motorcycle jacket totally optional.

This went too fast to blog about, even - and truth be told, I felt a little shamefaced over breaking my lace ban so quickly and over knitting something so visible in such a frivolous color. BUT - 1) it went so quickly it hardly even counts; 2) it's really cold outside, so this was utility knitting and 3) I just liked the idea of a pink wimple . So it was totally justified, and neccessary, and harmless, and...and...and don't you judge me.

Pattern: Flared Lace Smoke Ring, by Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer for Heartstrings Fiber Arts
Yarn: Garnstudio/DROPS Alpaca in colors 3770 (deep rose)
Yardage: Approximately 300 yards
Yarn Source: All About Yarn
Needles: 4.5mm (US7)Addi Natura circular
Gauge: ?? 28" circumference around flared bottom; 22" circumference around top
Modifications: Knit with 4.5mm (US7) needles instead of 4.0mm (US6) needles; single YO used instead of double YO for fanning eyelets

See all entries on this project

November 19, 2005

Peacock Feathers Shawl

It's a damn horse blanket.

Pattern: Peacock Feathers Shawl, from Fiddlesticks Knitting
Yarn: Ornaghi Filati Merino Oro, in color 907 (sage)
Yardage: Approximately 1000 yards
Yarn Source: All About Yarn
Needles: 2.5mm (US1) Addi Natural bamboo circulars
Gauge: ?? 76"x38" finished dimensions
Modifications: Knit with cobweb weight yarn and 2.5mm needles instead of lace weight yarn and 3.5mm needles

See all entries on this project

Anticipating

Those crochet loops - gah! What miserable cur decided to inflict this scourge upon the suffering world? What kind of insane revenge plot prompted the designer to include a crochet bind-off? What mad scientist invented crochet in the first place? Crochet sucks; crochet is impossible to do; the yarn keeps splitting; what kind of magic witchy fingers are needed to do this properly . . . what? The yarn goes around the needle?

Oh.

After that, they flew by, and now we're just waiting on blocking, here.

Items on today's to-do list include:

  • Block the Peacock Feathers Shawl
  • Go to the yarn store
  • Finalize Thanksgiving menu
  • Do the Saturday Quote-Acrostic in the Post
  • Assist in the purchase of a chainsaw

Not necessarily in that order :)

Anyway, look for an FO this afternoon! Huzzah!

November 18, 2005

Revelation

Ahh, crochet - my friend, my enemy. So we meet again.

Fifteen years ago, when I was a child unschooled in the ways of the world, I thought you were great. I used you to help me make this:

What was I thinking? This closeup is all that needs to be seen to know that it was a hideous concoction of bronzey metallic thread, hip-length and pocked with "flowers" along the body and bizarre little nehru collar.

You've been used to foist truly heartless crimes on humanity:

I threw you down in disgust, struggling to see any good in the world at all through the stain of fugliness you'd left in your wake.

Now, I need you. Would you be happy to contribute towards something pretty? Would it be a first for you? Will I even remember where to begin?

I'd forgotten all about you - I daresay you'd forgotten about me. But it's all coming back to me now.

November 17, 2005

Waffling

We all have to be good at something. I happen to be the clumsiest person I know or know of, including the gawky 14-year-old making my latte and the neighbor-guy who set his house on fire two weekends ago. Most people have a basic command over their limbs by their twenties, wouldn't you say? Not so your friend Eunny - yesterday, I was walking, minding my own business, when my legs just decided to suddenly buckle and I hit the ground like a Hefty bag full of vegetable soup. Not tripped by anything - not a misstep into a crack - just not having a handle on that whole locomotion thing. Anyway, my chin and cheekbone are a lovely shade of ground beef, and my hand is raw enough to be terribly stiff all the time.

The point is, not much knitting going on, what with The Claw, and all. But I've been busy! Remember the too-small felted vest? I blocked it with some gentle stretching, and got another couple inches out of it:

Now that it's completely square and even, I'll get around to making the cut one of these days.

And here's a design I like for the lace scarf, represented very poorly with my truly lame lace-drawing skills:

I was thinking three "strips" of print o' the wave, surrounded by a narrow edging of bead stitch and finished with a plain garter stitch border. It would be very simple, but all the more modern for that, and I do so dearly love the idea of taking a very old pattern and making it look new. I'm looking into doing River, too (thanks, Annie and Angela), but everyone who's made it says it can be monstrous boring. So...if you can visualize the print o' the wave scarf beyond the heinous drawing, or if you've made River, what do you think?

Postscript - I was freaked right the hell out yesterday when a woman stopped me in the grocery store to ask if I had a knitting blog and if my name was Eunny. Hi, Rachel!

November 16, 2005

Next?

I'm still working on the Peacock shawl...and the Peacock shawl is still a crumpled rag o' ugly.

Now, I need to make a plan for the rest of my Christmas knitting - I have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done for everyone, except when it comes to this:

Jeff's mom would, I think, like the color, and it's just enough (about 1,000 yards) to make a pretty piece of lace. I was convinced I'd make another Peacock shawl with it, until Jeff informed me that he thinks his mom might prefer a scarf, or a long, rectangular shawl she could wear as a scarf. This is fine with me - Peacock is a fun pattern and everything, but I don't know if I want to knit two of them one right after the other.

Maybe I'd do something like this:

the Corner-to-Corner scarf from the Knitter's Review shawl book, though I hate the idea of knitting the same repeat over and over for interminable rows. Then again, the second Fiddlesticks Whisper Scarf, with a few repeats added for length, ccould be mighty nice:

Or maybe I'll use this as my first lace design project, and cobble together some patterns out of a stitch dictionary. Decisions, decisions.

In any case, after I block the Peacock, I'll work on some other things before jumping right into MORE lace. I'll work on the Felted Floral Bag first, then finish up Dad's Gansey, and then, maybe, get cracking on choosing or making up a pattern for the scarf. Lace is excellent in small doses, of course, but lately I've felt it beginning to eat my brain.

November 15, 2005

Am I still invited?

I'm always late to the party. In ninth grade, I was the last person to find out that Allison Whittier and Bryan Kranz had broken up at the senior prom after-party. This was news that rocked the world, people - and I had no idea, until I saw Bryan necking with Shannon Hines.

Then, I heard only that Bruce Willis had a new movie that was kind of interesting, didn't bother to see it, and thus was embarassingly confused whenever anyone brought up the fact that he'd been "dead the whole time." He was staring at me from the checkout line magazine display every week - how could he be dead?

The list goes on and on. You mean those people were high?! Why is everyone so down on Ray Lewis? There's this site, it's pretty funny, called The Onion...oh, you mean you've heard of it already? I don't know, I thought those were pretty nice boots Condoleeza had on.

I think the crowning glory of my shining career in cluelessness came when I realized that the "Every Kiss Begins With Kay" jewelry-store jingle is a pun - you'll receive a kiss when you bring home a gift from Kay Jewelers, but also, the first letter of "kiss" is "k," har har har.

I realized this TWO WEEKS AGO.

So I don't feel so bad that I've just now discovered the wonder and glory that is the nostepinne, or more properly, the wonder and glory that is the nostepinne technique. Sure, people have been doing it for centuries; sure, it's a common-sense kind of thing; sure, I'm an idiot for drawing complex diagrams of a handcranked ballwinder's movements and thinking I'd build one someday. I don't care - I'm too pleased with myself.

Those are the scraps I'm collecting for my Someday Fair Isle Vest, wrapped into neat, stackable cakes with an elegantly low-tech and seamlessly appropriate method. Ahhh, tradition.

Executive Summary of WIPS - the Peacock, she grows. I'm going to limit chatter and pictures, I think, because 1) I know lace-in-progress is deadly monotonous, and 2) everyone saw a thousand Peacocks being worked this summer. Next time you see it, it'll be blocked and draped around the nearest available elephant.

The convertible gloves - I finally got around to asking Jeff about them, and miracle of miracles, he likes them. They fit perfectly, without ripple or wrinkle; he likes the color, the yarn, even the cable. Huzzah! I'll finish those, too, this week, start test-knitting the pattern for smaller hands (crossing my fingers - I think it just might downscale perfectly with smaller needles and fingering weight yarn), and then offer a nice little free pattern. Whoop!

November 14, 2005

Forgive your enemies, but don't forget their names

Oh baby, do I forgive you. It's such a pretty thing, it would be a sin not to make peace with it. Or to throw it out of an eighth-story window and hope it lands in the street to be crushed by a passing delivery van, or lay it too near the stove in a wild hope that the pilot light will catch, or anything, uh, hypothetical like that.

Thanks for all the notes of commiseration you guys left :) It really is inexplicable, isn't it? Clearly, this shawl wants to be, needs to be, IS GOING TO BE a full 88".

Fighting against destiny, I got out my graph paper and my calculator to do some fancy footwork with repeat elimination - I thought I would take out two of the "feather" sections in the middle charts. That threw the design out of proportion; the "plume" section was too long now. In trimming the plume section, I found that the only logical place to cut it would make the feather section too long again - but I'd already knitted way past the point at which I'd have had to stop with the feathers. I'm a high-strung, twitchy sort of knitter if there ever was such a thing, but even I draw the line at tinking lace that doesn't have to be tinked. So, this shawl is going to be large, and my dear little grandmama can gather it with a pin when she wears it.

Or use it as a bathrobe, or a painting tarp, or go parasailing with it; just so long as she enjoys it. Right?

I'm about halfway through the 7th chart now, and should probably have a FO by the weekend (yay! I lurve blocking; it's my favorite part of knitting lace)

November 11, 2005

Riddle me this

I'm using yarn that's really no more than two wispy threads twisted together. It snaps when it snags on a rough fingernail. It's a bitch to wind, even with a high-quality swift and ballwinder, because the yarn is not heavy enough to keep the swift turning. It's practically sewing thread.

I'm using tiny 2.50mm (US1) needles, the smallest size of bamboo circulars carried by the well-stocked notions department of my favorite yarn store. The little pins - about the diameter of cocktail toothpicks - flex dangerously between my fingers as I knit. I feel them bend and give, and bite my lip for fear they'll snap in my hands or during transport.

My point is, everything is pretty much as small as can be. If the materials got any smaller, it would actually be NEGATIVE knitting. In a mathematically inexplicable paradox, the fabric would un-knit, the earth's rotation would reverse, and time would move backwards as I worked.

So seriously, what the hell?

At row 120 of 249, more or less half the center-to-tip measurement of the shawl should be completed. Just for giggles, I pinned and measured.

21".

Which means completed tip-to-center will measure a little more than 42", which means tip-to-tip will measure about 86".

Only two inches smaller than the pattern measurement. Angst and worry and nail-biting and hemming and hawing, and for what? Two. Measly. Inches. Excuse me now while I curl up in the corner and sob like a child.

November 10, 2005

Dilemna

To do a rather serious disservice to a certain fun-loving founding father:

Ballwinders are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. That's 1,365 yards of cobweb weight Merino, baby, all wound into one beautiful, silky-soft, endless, stable center-pull yarn cake. Ahhh.

The skinny on Peacock Feathers:

This pattern is very pretty, and by "very pretty", I mean "even people who normally find lace too fussy and precious see it and are immediately consumed by the sort of white-hot lust that builds up behind eyeballs and turns the brain into a quivering mass of covetousness". Thus, it would make an excellent all-purpose gift for nearly anyone who likes pretty things.

I knew all along that I'd have to purchase a skein in a new color to make the Peacock that will complete the Lace Trifecta for my mom, my auntie, and my grandmother, but I also had 75 grams, or 1,023 yards (if the label is to be believed) of the same yarn left from the FIr Cone Shawl. It would be the perfect color for a Peacock for Jeff's mom, if only I could get a whole shawl out of it.

The pattern calls for 4 ounces, or 1,260 yards, of laceweight on 3.5mm (US4) needles to make a shawl measuring 88" from tip to tip and 43" from the neck to the lower point. That's big, and by "big" I mean "the size of a damn parachute." Some women could certainly pull that off, but not my 4' 8" grandmother.

Then there's the issue of the yarn substitution - I'm using Merino Oro again. The shawl pictured looks quite solid in the straight stockinette portions - I would have to use a much smaller needle for cobweb yarn. This would, coincidentally, work out to a smaller shawl, which would be fortuitous indeed.

But how much LESS yarn would it use? I didn't get to the store all week, but went ahead and cast on with the yarn I had (the teal, of which I had a limited amount) and the needles in my posession (2.75mms, which make a rather too airy fabric in st st). My progress so far has gone like this:

1. Work three rows
2. Regard knitting critically
3. Hem and haw over whether the finished shawl will still be huge
4. Hem and haw over whether the teal blue will run out
5. Decide to keep knitting a little more so as to "get a better idea"
6. Repeat until all reasoning faculties are sufficiently dulled by endless circular logic, doubt, and apparant hopelessness. Wonder if this is what insanity feels like, to keep doing something though you don't want to and know you probably shouldn't and it's tormenting you every single moment that you continue to do it with self-doubt and worry and why don't you just stop?

Duh. Why didn't I just buy the new skein, which I would have to do anyway, knit that shawl first, and use that as an (obviously) accurate yardage measure and size measure without concerns of running out of yarn? Why didn't I just do that from the beginning?

Why? And why am I spending all this time thinking about this whole silly, easily-resolved conundrum?

At some point, I need to lay off the crack, and by "crack" I mean "lace". Clearly, it's destroying my mind.

November 09, 2005

The 1,002nd night's story

Thank you so much for all the positive feedback on the cable how-to. I'm glad you guys found it helpful!

One glove:

The problem is, I'm about 98% positive he's going to hate them. So do I ask him to try it on now and spare myself the work of finishing when he says he hates them, or do I wait until later and feel bitter and angry when he says he hates them? Would I knit another pair of gloves when he says he hates them? Would I throw the yarn down a well in disgust when he says he hates them? Am I working myself up into a frenzy of knitting angst, because I think he's going to say he hates them? Am I being totally unfair here by assuming he's going to say he hates them?

Probably should, probably shouldn't, probably would, probably wouldn't, wouldn't doubt it, and yes.

And now, a charming bedtime story to tell your children:

The Improvident Girl

Once upon a time, there was a rather insufferable girl who lived in a faraway land of decadence and bloat. She ordinarily sniffed self-rightously at the careless, frivolous consumption she saw all around her, rolling her eyes and speaking in sneering tones of the Walmart society of bigger, now, easier, faster, more, More, MORE!

She was smugly making some peacock-patterned lace out of leftover yarn, blinded by her self-satisfied resourcefulness to the irony of arrogance about thriftiness at all, much less thriftiness about a symbol for vanity. Then she started worrying about yardages,

which made her worry about needle sizes

which made her worry about finished dimensions

which made her wonder about finishing techniques

which made her think about blocking wires

which made her wish for no-rinse wool wash

until she was scribbing a list that included new yarn, new needles, a new pattern, a book on finishing, wires and soap. She stopped on her way out the door, realized she was completely insane and a hypocrite to boot, forgot to eat from shame, starved to death, and was buried in a potter's field in a deliciously gruesome demonstration of Nature's wit.

The End.

November 08, 2005

Technickety: How to unvent a simple cable

I had a heap of messages asking where the cable for Jeff's glove came from. It's a fairly generic multi-strand cable; called a "Saxon Braid" (thanks, Purly White!). I see Wendy at wendyknits has used it for a sweater, and I'm sure it's to be found in stitch dictionaries.

That said, being able to read an existing cable and knowing how to reconstruct it is a very useful skill. I'm not suggesting, of course, that the following be used in any way that takes credit away from a designer of a garment - rather, this is a reference for understanding how a simple cable works and how to write a chart. The actual process is far more intuitive than what follows, but I've written each step out, just for documentation's sake.

***I should say my intention here isn't to be patronizing at all; I'm sure most of you have been doing this for a long time without this kind of manic detail. I'd just never seen this particular technique spelled out and recorded, and thought it might be useful to someone out there to have it as a reference***

According to my definition, a "simple cable":

  • is composed of individual "strands" of stockinette on a reverse stockinette background
  • is composed of strands that travel, meet, and cross (never more than two at a time)
  • has strands that may be composed of any number of stockinette stitches, but stitches within a strand always act as one; that is, they travel together and cross together. The strand never splits.
  • has a vertical line of symmetry
  • may not have a strand that meets with itself
  • may have any number of strands

A simple cable can be quite complex looking; I only call it that to exclude knotwork designs that use infinite line techniques and asymmetrical textures, which can be a little more complicated to chart.

Step by step

1) Understand where your vertical line of symmetry is (the right half and the left half should be mirror images of each other, not including cross directions), and choose a logical beginning and ending to one pattern repeat:

2) Identify how many "strands" make up the cable - it might be helpful to draw a line diagram showing the relationships between the strands. Using one color for each strand is a good way to know exactly what you're working with at any given time. The different colors won't matter, of course, when you're charting and knitting, but for now, it's a useful tool to seeing the mechanics of the cable at a glance.

3) Figure out how many stitches across each strand will be, and how many background stitches (reverse stockinette) will separate strand groups. A good place to start is with each strand two stitches wide (making one cross four stitches wide), and two purl stitches separating groups. The proportions generally look good, and when two strands need to travel toward each other in preparation for a cross, the movement can be completed within one right-side row (each strand travels over one purl stitch). In a simple cable, each pocket of background within the cable is the same width.

4) Set up a placeholder row with each strand in the right place to start the pattern. Strands that will cross in the first pattern row are right next to each other; each group is separated by two background stitches.

5) For any simple cable, all wrong side rows are worked as the stitches appear (knit stitches are knit, and purl stitches are purled). Add a duplicate WS row.

6) All crosses within the same row should move in the same direction (right over left or left over right). The two two-stitch strands will make up a four-stitch cross.

7) Add your WS row with strands in the new postions established in the row before.

8) In a travelling row, strands will move one background stitch to the right or left in preparation for new crossings. Background pockets will close (zero stitches) or stay the same (two stitches), and new ones will appear (two stitches).

9) Add your WS row with strands as established.

10) In the next cross row, crosses will generally move in opposition to the preceding cross row. Again, all crosses within the same row should move in the same direction. Maintain your background pocket widths - don't move anything that would change the number of background stitches.

11) Continue in this manner until strands are positioned to start over from the beginning of the pattern repeat. It's easy from this point - fill in any completely plain block with a notation for background - this symbol will mean "purl this stitch on the RS and knit on WS"

12) Simply clear any grid block that contains solid color to indicate a strand stitch. This blank stitch will mean "knit this stitch on the RS and purl on the WS".

13) Now, replace anything that looks like this (where two strands cross, with the left strand moving OVER the right one:

with something like this (slip 2 stitches to a cable needle, hold in back, knit 2 from left needle, knit 2 from cable needle):

and everything that looks like this (right strand moving over the left one):

with something like this (slip 2 stitches to a cable needle, hold in front, knit 2 from left needle, knit 2 from cable needle):

See?

14) Everything that looks like this (two strand stitches moving over one background stitch from left to right):

should be replaced with this (slip 1 to cable needle, hold in back, knit 2 from left needle, purl 1 from cable needle):

And these (two strand stitches moving over one background stitch from right to left):

get replaced with this (slip 2 to cable needle, hold in front, purl 1 from left needle, knit 2 from cn):

Clean up your chart, number it, and reposition grid markers if you need to.

And there you have it.

Consider this the extreme longhand version. Once you understand how cables work, you'll skip the color exercise. Once you've done a few that way, you'll be able to knit a swatch without a chart at all.

Please feel free to leave questions or suggestions in the comments, or drop me an email. Was this interesting? Helpful? Really confusing and pointless? Opinions always welcome!

November 07, 2005

Oxymoron of the day: listed stream-of-conciousness

1. Thank you very much indeed for the lovely comments about the shawl - I really appreciate them. Some more shots of the Fir Cone have been added to the project entry below - the fact that Jeff is eight feet taller than I am makes his photographs of me come out looking like they're of a foreshortened elephant man.

2. I've realized that personally, I feel pretty "meh" about this one. I was joking, of course, when I ranted and raved about how miserable the experience was, but I really am very underwhelmed by the finished object. It might be just because I'm not really big on frilly lace, personally, or it might be this particular arrangement of patterns - I think the border patterns are way too simple and geometric for the organic tessellation of the center square, and the edging needs to be much wider to put the thing in proportion. At any rate, I'm starting to understand shawl constructions fairly well - the Peacock Feathers shawl is the next one I'll do (to get a taste of triangular shawls) and then I'll buy a dictionary of Shetland lace stitches and bid good riddance to $10 patterns and $40 books.

3. The Christmas gift pile grows.

Unfortunately, so does the list of gifts not yet knitted. Among them:

  • Peacock Feathers shawl for my grandmother
  • One more shawl (maybe) for J's mom
  • Incomplete sweater for my dad
  • 2 pairs Knitty's "Cigar" gloves for my cousins
  • Incomplete Felted Floral Bag for The Most Totally Awesome Swapping Of Seasonally Appropriate Gifts Ever
  • 32904829038409 pairs Fiber Trends felted slippers for everybody I've ever met in my life. It's a very well-written, clever, useful pattern indeed...too bad I'm starting to think just poking myself in the eye with a needle might be more fun than making another pair. People love these slippers. I loved them, too - that is, the first four sets, or so.

4. Dale Hauk is...weird. I can't say it's a pleasure to work with, as it's rough and oddly dry-feeling and slightly oily at the same time. The finished fabric doesn't exactly repel water, but it does dry much more quickly than untreated wool of the same weight.

5. I guess Jeff's convertible mittens are next up.

Here's the cable I'm planning to use for the back of the hand. I apologize for choosing such a dark grey for this project - not very blog-friendly, but I was going for subtlety, here. A manly cable, if there is such a thing.

6. For everyone to whom I promised cardigan mods by today...we had some fire engine-requiring excitement yesterday (everyone's fine!), and I didn't get around to it. This week, though, I swear!

November 06, 2005

Done: Fir Cone Square Shawl

Pattern: Fir Cone Square Shawl, Folk Shawls by Cheryl Oberle
Yarn: Ornaghi Filati Merino Oro, in color 60 (teal)
Yardage: Approximately 1650 yards
Yarn Source: All About Yarn
Needles: 3.00mm Addi Natural bamboo circulars
Gauge: ?? 52"x52" finished dimensions
Modifications: Knit with cobweb weight yarn and 3.00mm needles instead of sport weight yarn and 4.5mm needles

See all entries on this project

November 05, 2005

Stay tuned.

Ashley and Laura - brilliant idea about the adding of side panels to the felted vest. I'm kind of ashamed I didn't think of it myself - thanks, you guys! It remains to be seen how successful the operation can be; the patient is young and otherwise healthy, but a rigorous and exhausting round of soaking, stretching and blocking will have to be undergone before surgery can even be attempted. Then, we have to worry about cutting straight and then creating holes to knit up with the trim yarn. In any event, I don't believe we'll be able to save the armhole trim; it'll have to be sacrificed for the greater good.

Homestretch on the shroud for wrapping the spawn of unholy unions Fir Cone Shawl. The next image will be an FO...that is, if the finished piece doesn't suck the breath out of my chest or smother me in my sleep, once it's free of the needles.

New acquisitions:

That's Dale Hauk, a sportweight 4-ply wool treated with Teflon to make it water resistant. I've never worked with it before, but thought it would be mighty keen for making a pair of convertible gloves for Jeff.

I have yet to swatch it or start playing with it, but in the ball, it feels only a bit strange. It's not plastic-y or crunchy; rather, it feels almost a little oily, like raw wool full of lanolin. Odd; we'll have to see.

And that's the pattern for the Heartstrings Flared Lace Smoke Ring, which I bought because the lace rib was so interesting-looking. Maybe I'll actually knit it some day...I think I have a slot opening up right after the next ice age.

Will the felted vest survive the operation and make a full recovery? How will the shawl block out? Is the Teflon yarn high tech, or highly unpleasant? When in the next millenium is the smoke ring going to be knit, and what in blazes prompted the purchase of the pattern?

Find out all this, and more - same bat time, same bat channel.

November 04, 2005

Distractions

Any felting gurus out there? Or felting surgeons, or maybe even a felting undertaker?

I made this vest for my mom last year, out of Beverly Galeska's wonderful book Felted Knits.

It's just the kind of thing she likes for cold weather; something warm that leaves her arms and hands unencumbered to fly about, taking care of her own business and everyone else's. Unfortunately, it's about four inches too small in circumference.

The item is knit all in one piece, with a short-row collar and edgings knitted on with superwash wool after felting.

Does anyone know how I can add some width to this thing? I'm thinking that there's no reason why a soak in warm water and some judicious pulling and stretching would hurt it, but I know you guys know better than I do. The felt is very thick and sturdy - do I have to worry about tearing it or pulling it apart?

The fir cone is reminding me of that old vaudeville act, the one where a performer would carry a potted tree across the stage behind his oblivious partner. It would be a little larger and more mature each time, until he was eventually lugging an enormous piece of greenery across the stage, dripping oranges and leaves.

Yeah, think of it exactly like that.

November 03, 2005

In a hurry

Laura asked what the brown and white intarsia piece was - it's Nicky Epstein's Floral Felted Bag from the fall '04 IK.

For a variety of reasons, I went with two-colors rather than replicating the pretty-but-awfully-twee full-color bag pictured. Just a very leeetle more progress has been made on the second intarsia panel.

And I started charting and swatching for the fair isle vest project:

I'm going to think of this project as an exercise in color and pattern, and keep the shaping fairly simple. Right now, I'm thinking columns of infinite knots mixed with traditional peeries...but I don't know. At any rate, it will have to be a slow-burn kind of thing - I can't justify knitting too much for myself when there are gifts waiting and deadlines piling.

Speaking of which, I'm off to get another skein to finish the Fir Cone. Look for a FO by the weekend!

(I've been doing a lot of admin stuff on the site lately; if you're using IE, you may have to empty your cache to see the changes to the stylesheet. There's been some cosmetic stuff, but the big organization changes are as follows:

1-You can now click on any item in the "In Progress" list to see all entries mentioning that project;
2-You can click on any item in the FO list to see a bare-bones spec list on the project, hopefully containing only helpful information. At the bottom of that page, you'll see a link to displaying all entries on that project.

Thoughts? Like it? Hate it?)

November 02, 2005

(Expletive Deleted)

Silly me. I made a slight miscalculation yesterday when I said the edging would only need 904 rows. I forgot that there are two edging rows for each border stitch - that means 1,736 edging rows will need to be worked. That's 124 pattern repeats and - count 'em - 24,304 individual stitches needed to complete this shawl.

The edging is very pretty, though; the most successful representation of a wave I've seen in knitted lace. It's got a rolling, undulating sort of feeling created by cleverly manipulated decreases and YOs - the double-thick area where the decreases run actually looks like a crest along the top of the wave. It shows that I'm enjoying it - I'm about to turn the first corner already.

There's only one problem.

Why do I feel absolutely infuriated about this? I knew going in that I might have to buy more yarn; I'm subbing yarn and needles, so I couldn't say that I had any real certainty about yardages. So why did it send me into an unbecoming little tantrum, complete with foot-stamping and oath-growling, late last night?

The only local source is closed on Tuesdays, natch.

Time to tackle the WIP list and get some stuff off the production line to make room for more exciting projects (the knitting is always greener on the other side).

November 01, 2005

It is begun

I finished the lace borders of the Fir Cone Shawl last night between candy dispensing and did two repeats on the edging.

The last border round was made up of 860 stitches. Yes, you heard correctly - eight hundred and sixty. The edging, which is knitted together with the body on every wrong side row, will consist of nine hundred and four rows, since a full repeat gets done over each corner.

You can't see it from there, but blood is dripping from the walls as I type.

A lot of people have asked for more details on the cabled cardigan:

The book is Adrienne Vittadini 15, published in the fall of either 1999 or 2000. I've had my copy for ages, but I *have* seen some back copies in stores as recently a couple weeks ago. Be warned, though, it's a pricey book - I paid $19.95 for a book with just two patterns (the cover and the cardigan) I made any use of.

The pattern is really quite different from what I ended up with. The book calls for light worsted wool/alpaca on 4mm (US6) needles, while I used a mercerized cotton yarn on US4 needles. I split the garment down the middle, did more of the waist shaping at more frequent intervals, added some short row shaping at the bust, and knit on a stocking-stitch hood adorned with a cable that trailed up from the body of the garment.

If anybody would like more details, I'm always happy to provide them, though I didn't keep extensive notes. For the most part, I made things up as I went along, dealing with construction issues as they came up (my motto: Speak softly and carry a big calculator).



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